Which lives longer - a honey bee or black ant?


A honey bee can live for 8 years ... but a black garden ant can live even 20 years longer than that! Learn more details, and other interesting trivia, in this blog on "the longevity of things."

I recently found The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database, and was fascinated by the information. For example, I found that worker honey bees live .2 to .4 years, whereas the queen bee can live 8 years. And when it comes to black garden ants, the queens can live a whopping 28 years (long live the queen!) Here's a picture that my friend and artist/nature-girl Sara made (is this a honey bee, or something else?), and a picture of some black ants in my kitchen (I don't think these particular ants will live very much longer at all, based on what they're drinking!)



The database was chock full of interesting information, but they didn't have any graphs ... a small oversight which I thought I would try to fix! So I downloaded a copy of their data, and wrote a program to import it into SAS. From there, it was a simple matter to create a plot for each 'class'. Below is a screen-capture of the graph for the Mammalia class (click the image to see the interactive version). One neat thing about the bar charts is that I set them up so you can click on the bars to see the official page with the database information about that animal, and you can click on the animal names (to the left of the bars) to launch a Google image search to see what that animal looks like. I think it's really powerful to provide dual drill-downs like this!


I really liked my graphs, but I didn't want users to have to scroll up/down looking for the classes, so I set up a very informal page (using the ancient Proc Gslide) to let them click on the class names (or rather, my simplified version of the names), and jump right to the desired graph (via ods html anchors). Click the screen-capture below to go to the actual interactive page:


Now for a quick quiz ... Which lives longer -- whales or humans?

Did any of the ages in these graphs surprise you?Do honey bees or black ants live longer? #dataviz #analytics Click To Tweet


About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over a quarter century, and his specialty is customizing graphs and maps - adding those little extra touches that help them answer your questions at a glance. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University.

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  1. If you didn't say that the black ant lives longer, you have not been drinking the right liquids. :)

  2. Rob, Michele is right. This is an awesome improvement over the original database --so much more friendly for non-specialists. I suspect even the specialists wouldn't mind having so convenient places to start exploration.

    I have one question: Do you have another way to replace proc gslide as the linch-pin of the entire program? With ODS this good, I no longer use the SAS/Graph license.


    Perhaps drop the last letter in the excert below?
    desired graph (via ods html anchors

    • Robert Allison
      Robert Allison on

      Wex - there are many things you could use instead of Proc Gslide.
      The simplest might be a Proc Print table, with links on the text.

  3. Oh WOW, definitely surprised of the Hexactinellid sponge's longevity! Once again, bringing data to life with great visualization, being able to click on the bar and label is great for further detail. Thanks Rob.

    • Robert Allison
      Robert Allison on

      Glad you liked it! (Hopefully you have some data in mind, that you can re-use these graph-tricks with) :)

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